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How much would it cost for Amtrak to build their own tracks nationwide?

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neroden

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A new HSR line shouldn't go straight through an established downtown of a city. In this case it would probably be most sensible to put the State College station somewhere south of downtown (PA26 / PA45 / Whitehall Rd. areas?) and encourage smart development around it. The university's campus transit could link up to it there.
Why shouldn't it? It would definitely be much more popular with an underground station on campus. Many HSR lines, worldwide, have underground tunnels and stations right under established downtowns of cities. Spain loves these.

I looked at ways to go around campus... but none of them work. They all require *both* slow curves *and* expensive land acquisition, (and they'd all have to be mostly elevated or underground, too). At that point, what are you *doing*, spending time and money on land acquisition to make a slower route which is less convenient and gets fewer riders?!? It makes more sense to go straight under; this way you can line it up with the approaches from the east and from the west and avoid serious doglegs.
 

sttom

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I've crayoned-out a route through State College -- basically requires a tunnel under State College proper (5-10 miles, probably cut and cover)
Cut and cover tunneling would also require dealing with utility lines which is a whole other can of worms. Which may or may not be worth doing vs digging under, but that opens you up to geoengineering (or whatever field deals with figuring out the composition of the dirt and tunneling.) If you were to cut and cover through an established town, you would also need a fairly straight path since roads might be where there are fewer utility lines to deal with and private property rights pretty much go all the way to hell. So you would need a straight, public right of way, near a Downtown State College, PA....which, doesn't seem like adding a train station somewhere near the edge would be that big of a deal considering people will drive for an hour just to take a flight. 15 minutes isn't going to kill someone.
 

west point

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To be perfectly safe no tunneling below 10 - 15 above mean sea level where ever possible. Actually surface as well. Any tunneling must be in good bed rock below that elevation.
 

neroden

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Cut and cover tunneling would also require dealing with utility lines which is a whole other can of worms. Which may or may not be worth doing vs digging under, but that opens you up to geoengineering (or whatever field deals with figuring out the composition of the dirt and tunneling.) If you were to cut and cover through an established town, you would also need a fairly straight path
There is one. Google "North Atherton Street" and "South Atherton Street", also known as "Business 322".

Bypass routes in State College would be stupidly detoury and curved and criss-cross numerous property lines. There is a direct under-the-street route through the middle of town!

since roads might be where there are fewer utility lines to deal with and private property rights pretty much go all the way to hell. So you would need a straight, public right of way, near a Downtown State College, PA....
Dude, look at Google Maps. There is one. There isn't a straight public right of way around the town -- but there is one right through the middle of the town. Put the station next to the Penn State golf course, where the available diggable land spreads out substantially. Room for a parking lot or garage too, maybe on the location of the existing lot.

I mean, if you have never bothered to actually look at Google Maps, you might not realize this, but once you look at Google Maps, it starts being clear what makes the most sense.

Punching a tunnel under Penn Roosevelt State Park is going to be the expensive part, not going under downtown State College.
 

MARC Rider

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To be perfectly safe no tunneling below 10 - 15 above mean sea level where ever possible. Actually surface as well. Any tunneling must be in good bed rock below that elevation.
Considering that State College is about 1100-1200 feet above sea level, that shouldn't be a problem. The geology, however, is "karst," that is limestone and dolomite which contains lots of caverns and sinkholes and such. I'm not sure whether tunneling in karst is especially problematic or not, but State College seems to have been able to install underground water and sewer lines, so I would expect that it's not impossible.
 

neroden

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A cut-and-cover should be easy enough regardless of the karst, but the necessary tunnel under the mountains east of State College... would require a lot of analysis. Mmmph.
 

sttom

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There is one. Google "North Atherton Street" and "South Atherton Street", also known as "Business 322".

Bypass routes in State College would be stupidly detoury and curved and criss-cross numerous property lines. There is a direct under-the-street route through the middle of town!



Dude, look at Google Maps. There is one. There isn't a straight public right of way around the town -- but there is one right through the middle of the town. Put the station next to the Penn State golf course, where the available diggable land spreads out substantially. Room for a parking lot or garage too, maybe on the location of the existing lot.

I mean, if you have never bothered to actually look at Google Maps, you might not realize this, but once you look at Google Maps, it starts being clear what makes the most sense.

Punching a tunnel under Penn Roosevelt State Park is going to be the expensive part, not going under downtown State College.
I did "like totally look at a map". Saying something isn't snap your fingers easy isn't saying it's impossible.

What is more likely to kill cutting and covering a major street would be the disruption to every day life that people would have to endure to get a train. Which the local populace would probably not be willing to live with. There is enough on record and in the public consciousness about how bad highway construction was for existing neighborhoods (well former neighborhoods now).

As for going around State College, there are highways running around the town. Highway right of ways are sometimes used for rail lines in other countries. If the option is no line or a line following a highway around town, I'd vote a for the train line instead of dying on the hill of "perfect".

And if you're going to use Business Route 322, it's not perfectly straight. Which means the trains wouldn't be running anywhere near high speeds once you're in town. Which would add to the run time, which as far as your concerned rules out any possible alternative route. Such as following highway 322 from Lewiston to Port Matilda. If NIMBYs in State College didn't kill a rail line over a proposed downtown tunnel, I bet environmentalists would for needing to pass through a state forest.
 

MARC Rider

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What is more likely to kill cutting and covering a major street would be the disruption to every day life that people would have to endure to get a train. Which the local populace would probably not be willing to live with. There is enough on record and in the public consciousness about how bad highway construction was for existing neighborhoods (well former neighborhoods now).

And if you're going to use Business Route 322, it's not perfectly straight. Which means the trains wouldn't be running anywhere near high speeds once you're in town. Which would add to the run time, which as far as your concerned rules out any possible alternative route. Such as following highway 322 from Lewiston to Port Matilda. If NIMBYs in State College didn't kill a rail line over a proposed downtown tunnel, I bet environmentalists would for needing to pass through a state forest.
The disruption to traffic would only last while the tunnel was being constructed. The street grid in State College is robust enough that detours could be installed during the period of construction, and the construction could be managed so that only short sections of the street are closed off at any one time. They managed to built cut and cover subways in far larger cities with much more traffic.

Perhaps Atherton Street isn't a straight shot to allow 200 mph running (and who says this line needs to be 200 mph HSR), bbut that really doesn't matter because the whole point of running a rail line through downtown State College is to have a station in downtown State College where the trains stop. Thus, the trains will not be running at high speeds in the tunnel.

Running a rail route through State College around the US 322 bypass defeats the point of running a rail route through State College. The place is, after all, a university town (when I lived there, about 30,000 students and 30,000 townies), and most of those students don't have cars (and the parking on campus sucks, too. The student parking lots were as far away from my grad student office as my apartment was, so naturally, I mostly walked or rode my bike. The place actually has a compact and dense downtown with a lot of people living withing walking distance. It clearly makes more sense to have the station in a central location, not out by the highway halfway to Bellefonte.

I can't speak about the nature of NIMBYism in State College, having left 40 years ago. I would think that a lot of the student body would relish the prospect of being able to get to Harrisburg/Philly or Pittsburgh (and places in between)without having to drive a car they might not own. And the "environmentalists" (whoever they are) may well be split abut construction of a base tunnel under the Seven Mountains. I suppose if a tunnel is constructed so that the forest lands on the mountain ridges aren't distured too much, most enviros wouldn't be too upset, because, after all, this is a rail line that has the potential to take cars off the road. Anyway, I think the portals of a Seven Mountains base tunnel would be outside the boundaries of the state forest.
 

sttom

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The disruption to traffic would only last while the tunnel was being constructed. The street grid in State College is robust enough that detours could be installed during the period of construction, and the construction could be managed so that only short sections of the street are closed off at any one time. They managed to built cut and cover subways in far larger cities with much more traffic.

Perhaps Atherton Street isn't a straight shot to allow 200 mph running (and who says this line needs to be 200 mph HSR), bbut that really doesn't matter because the whole point of running a rail line through downtown State College is to have a station in downtown State College where the trains stop. Thus, the trains will not be running at high speeds in the tunnel.

Running a rail route through State College around the US 322 bypass defeats the point of running a rail route through State College. The place is, after all, a university town (when I lived there, about 30,000 students and 30,000 townies), and most of those students don't have cars (and the parking on campus sucks, too. The student parking lots were as far away from my grad student office as my apartment was, so naturally, I mostly walked or rode my bike. The place actually has a compact and dense downtown with a lot of people living withing walking distance. It clearly makes more sense to have the station in a central location, not out by the highway halfway to Bellefonte.

I can't speak about the nature of NIMBYism in State College, having left 40 years ago. I would think that a lot of the student body would relish the prospect of being able to get to Harrisburg/Philly or Pittsburgh (and places in between)without having to drive a car they might not own. And the "environmentalists" (whoever they are) may well be split abut construction of a base tunnel under the Seven Mountains. I suppose if a tunnel is constructed so that the forest lands on the mountain ridges aren't distured too much, most enviros wouldn't be too upset, because, after all, this is a rail line that has the potential to take cars off the road. Anyway, I think the portals of a Seven Mountains base tunnel would be outside the boundaries of the state forest.
NIMBYs are frankly not rational and once "the character of the neighborhood" comes up, all bets are off on rationality. And to them, any amount of disruption will be seen as a threat to their way of life which is worth an immeasurable amount. (If only we could tax an immeasurably valuable piece of property to pay for transit improvements). And seeing how the town becomes more "suburban" west of Park Ave, they will become a problem.

The distance between Business Route 322 and Highway 322 proper is about 3 miles. The last mile problem can be solved with a bus route that is paid for through student fees. My University ran a shuttle between it and the nearest BART station and a ~2.5 mile bus ride wasn't a hindrance to us taking BART. If anything, they couldn't run the shuttles often enough to meet demand. If 3 miles is enough to make someone drive instead of taking a train, that sort of person is just looking for an excuse to drive.

There is a small contingent of environmentalists that thinks any construction is destroying the Earth and modern life is a zero sum game as far as the environment goes. There are some near me that were holding up reopening an stretch of abandoned railroad because it didn't matter to them that truck trips would be replaced by a couple of freight trains per week. They have a habit of coming out of the woodwork when something ruffles their feathers.

I'm not saying these are insurmountable and can't be overcome (well maybe the NIMBYs), just that these issues and....insane constituencies need to be watched out for, should a plan get out of the train nerd level.
 

neroden

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I did "like totally look at a map". Saying something isn't snap your fingers easy isn't saying it's impossible.

What is more likely to kill cutting and covering a major street would be the disruption to every day life that people would have to endure to get a train.
True. We'll see; people have been surprisingly OK with that in some places, and a college town might be more likely to accept it. IMO, would be more likely to.

Which the local populace would probably not be willing to live with. There is enough on record and in the public consciousness about how bad highway construction was for existing neighborhoods (well former neighborhoods now).

As for going around State College, there are highways running around the town. Highway right of ways are sometimes used for rail lines in other countries. If the option is no line or a line following a highway around town, I'd vote a for the train line instead of dying on the hill of "perfect".
Sure. I mean, a crappy rail line is better than no rail line. If necessary, you can have a really stupid route, like the one the South Shore Line currently uses to get to South Bend Airport. Have you looked at those highway routes around State College? :-( They're *baaaad*.

I figure a bypass route will be significantly slower than a downtown tunnel, the cost will end up being much larger than a downtown tunnel, and I know which station location will get student advocates supporting it (downtown) and which one won't (outskirts). So you choose: do you advocate for a bad route, or for a good one?

Don't pre-compromise your proposal.
If it turns out State College doesn't want a downtown station, you can compromise it then. But this is basic advocacy -- suggest a *good* proposal to start with, don't pre-compromise it to concede to objections which may not materialize at all. If the State College students -- who will be the major customers -- come out demanding that the line move to the outskirts, then fine.

But I fully expect those students to be demanding a downtown station on campus. I think they would be much less interested in disruption of the highway for a line which wouldn't serve them directly.

And if you're going to use Business Route 322, it's not perfectly straight. Which means the trains wouldn't be running anywhere near high speeds once you're in town.
Well, they're going to have to stop for the downtown station anyway. Fast enough for that.

Which would add to the run time, which as far as your concerned rules out any possible alternative route. Such as following highway 322 from Lewiston to Port Matilda. If NIMBYs in State College didn't kill a rail line over a proposed downtown tunnel, I bet environmentalists would for needing to pass through a state forest.
I actually think the problem of getting out of State College to the east is the big one. I don't think it would be easy to follow highway 322 over the mountains because it barely fits through the passes in the *first* place -- maybe an elevated railway over the median, at very low speed? At some point the benefits of tunnelling start being very large. But it's ugly geology.

Given the very expensive recent expansion of 322 in that area, it might be possible to use the median most of the way across the mountains (it'll have to be elevated most of the way though, to get over the road intersections) and only tunnel from the Triester Valley to Potlicker Flats. That would save a lot of trouble. Still needs a 2.5 mile tunnel. I don't think trying to follow the highway through that section is viable. I still think a 5-mile tunnel coming out near Boalsburg would have less NIMBYs but might be far more expensive and difficult.
 
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WWW

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And then that other factor the "SOUND factor" - trains running underground don't make much noise - maybe a rumble - but put it on stilts
elevated and the whoosh of air - the whine of metal wheels on metal track - quicker and faster perhaps more noisy than the Chicago "L" !
Either of these eliminates the train horn on level grade crossings with the gates and chiming signals !
Noise is one thing maybe perhaps you can get used to it !
 

IndyLions

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But I fully expect those students to be demanding a downtown station on campus. I think they would be much less interested in disruption of the highway for a line which wouldn't serve them directly.
Very small point to add to the above. It won’t likely be “students” who will be demanding anything.

The timescale of a project like this is just too long term. It would likely be someone at the university making the argument about what approach would promote increased enrollment.
 

MARC Rider

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It should be noted that most of the student housing (and townie residential neighborhoods, for that matter) are nowhere near the US 322 bypass, which runs on the east side of town. Also, not all ridership will be students, there may be considerable ridership from people who have business with the university or the associated tech companies that sponge off the university. They built the bypass where it was for a reason -- to save money and avoid NIMBYs. There's probbly been some development around the exits, but, in general, most of Sate College is nowhere near that route, it's mainly to get the truck traffic out of the town.

And I don't think that building a cut and cover tunnel for a rail line under Atherton Street is going to "change the nature" of any neighborhoods. (Atherton is a commercial arterial, anyway, all the "neighborhoods" are off on side roads. And it's mostly student housing, anyway, here today, gone in 4 years.) The construction will be somewhat more disruptive than a repaving project, and I've never heard of any NIMBYs stopping repaving projects. The disrupton from the construction will be temporary, and when it's done, the roads will be more or less the same on the surface as they were before the works started.
 

sttom

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I don't think that building a cut and cover tunnel for a rail line under Atherton Street is going to "change the nature" of any neighborhoods.
The "character of the neighborhood" argument is never a rational argument. It's a feel good appeal to nostalgia meant to short circuit people's ability to think cause home is where the heart is and any change is tearing out your heart. The only rational basis to this argument is construction *might* depress home values for a few years which is the worst thing in the world.
True. We'll see; people have been surprisingly OK with that in some places, and a college town might be more likely to accept it. IMO, would be more likely to.



Sure. I mean, a crappy rail line is better than no rail line. If necessary, you can have a really stupid route, like the one the South Shore Line currently uses to get to South Bend Airport. Have you looked at those highway routes around State College? :-( They're *baaaad*.

I figure a bypass route will be significantly slower than a downtown tunnel, the cost will end up being much larger than a downtown tunnel, and I know which station location will get student advocates supporting it (downtown) and which one won't (outskirts). So you choose: do you advocate for a bad route, or for a good one?

Don't pre-compromise your proposal. If it turns out State College doesn't want a downtown station, you can compromise it then. But this is basic advocacy -- suggest a *good* proposal to start with, don't pre-compromise it to concede to objections which may not materialize at all. If the State College students -- who will be the major customers -- come out demanding that the line move to the outskirts, then fine.
When advocating for things, you give people options and explain the pros and cons of each and figure out which one would gain the most support. When you say "this is the only option, there are no others" all it takes is one noisy person to torpedo your one proposal since you don't have anything to compare it to. If you can't even convince me with very mild criticisms, how can you talk to someone who comes to the discussion already wanting to vote no or someone who hasn't made up their mind? The answer is it will turn people off it the other person can poke enough holes in your 1 plan with no alternatives.

Putting a station somewhere along Park Ave between the stadium and the highway wouldn't be a death blow to a rail line. We're talking 2-3 miles from the center of town, a couple shuttle routes to campus would handle the last mile problem. Acting like the ridership will be effectively 0 if the station isn't in the geographic center of town is an asinine assumption. Based on that perfectly rational logic, I should never take BART into San Francisco since I live about 5 miles from the nearest station, yet i and thousands of others before COVID regularly took the train despite not living within a mile of a station. The willingness people have to travel for a mode of transit varies. People aren't going to walk more than half a mile for a city bus line unless they have to and people are going to be willing to travel more than half a mile for a train.

Also, it's generally the normal practice outside of North America to not plow major highways through the downtowns of every town a highway passes near. Us building highways like that has had horrible outcomes for towns and cities and there is a reason why people became resistant to destroying a swath of their city or town for a highway. This was originally done for classism and racism....I mean "urban renewal". Which people may rightly or wrongly view digging a cut and cover tunnel that way, which means giving them a comparable second option to make a choice instead of the option of train or no train cause no effectively costs nothing in most people's minds.

Other costs that came with highway construction was taking valuable inner city and streetcar suburb land off the tax roles, the loss of housing and commerical space and swamping the rest of the city with more traffic than it was built for. Which wouldn't happen with a tunnel, but that is a thing someone people will have in the back of their minds.
 
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Even if Amtrak moved out to State College, I know many who don't even know Amtrak runs to Pittsburgh. I was in Perry County PA with my boss who was born raised in Philly and lives out in Lancaster, and when the Pennsylvanian passed he was shocked that Amtrak went out there.
Living in PA it always made more sense to drive the turnpike when heading west. I wouldn't even look State College until they can fix the current route, which will never happen. To much investment needed.
 

neroden

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Bluntly, nobody is going to advocate for a rail line to some random location outside of town with buses connecting it to downtown.

Sure, suggest it as a backup plan, but if you want to actually get rail to State College built, you have to advocate for downtown, because that's where the advocacy IS.

State College is a DESTINATION, not an origin. You wouldn't take BART to San Francisco if it arrived at Hunters Point and you had to take a bus to get back to the Embarcadero. Admit it.
 

sttom

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State College is a DESTINATION, not an origin. You wouldn't take BART to San Francisco if it arrived at Hunters Point and you had to take a bus to get back to the Embarcadero. Admit it.
I've never driven on surface streets in San Francisco and before COVID, I was regularly making day trips there. Locations including Japan Town, Ocean Beach, Baker Beach, the Zoo. Hell one time I took the bus from San Francisco State to the Presidio after an interview. If I ever needed to go to Hunters Point I could very easily take the T 3rd Street and a bus to Hunter's Point. I've even used AC Transit in the East Bay which is way less convenient than Muni is. And I wouldn't call the area around Oakland Airport a "destination". When I lived in Reno I walked 3 blocks to take a bus to go to college, which is 2 blocks more than it sounds like you'd walk. So by the look of it, I'm more committed to using public transit in all forms than you are.
 
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